The Virgin Blue

The Virgin Blue

3.9 86
by Tracy Chevalier

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Meet Ella Turner and Isabelle du Moulin—two women born centuries apart, yet bound by a fateful family legacy. When Ella and her husband move to a small town in France, Ella hopes to brush up on her French, qualify to practice as a midwife, and start a family of her own. Village life turns out to be less idyllic than she expected, however, and a peculiar dream


Meet Ella Turner and Isabelle du Moulin—two women born centuries apart, yet bound by a fateful family legacy. When Ella and her husband move to a small town in France, Ella hopes to brush up on her French, qualify to practice as a midwife, and start a family of her own. Village life turns out to be less idyllic than she expected, however, and a peculiar dream of the color blue propels her on a quest to uncover her family’s French ancestry. As the novel unfolds—alternating between Ella’s story and that of Isabelle du Moulin four hundred years earlier—a common thread emerges that unexpectedly links the two women. Part detective story, part historical fiction, The Virgin Blue is a novel of passion and intrigue that compels readers to the very last page.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A beautifully crafted story shot with vivid colors.” —The Times (London)

“Such an achievement for a serious writer that you feel it deserves an award.” —The Independent (London)

The Los Angeles Times
Where Chevalier shines is in her clean prose and her descriptions of rural French and Swiss life, then and now. — Michael Harris
As she did in her 2000 bestseller Girl With a Pearl Earring, Chevalier brings a distant time and place vividly alive.... Elegantly drawn.
August 18, 2003
Boston Globe
...a compelling page turner.
August 18, 2003
Publishers Weekly
Chevalier's clunky first novel, initially published in England in 1997, lacks the graceful literary intimacy of her subsequent runaway hit, Girl with a Pearl Earring. In split-narrative fashion, it follows a transplanted American woman in southwestern France as she connects through dreams with her distant Huguenot ancestors. The primary plot concerns the plight of Ella Turner, an insecure American midwife of French ancestry. Her architect husband, Rick, has been transferred from California to Toulouse, France, with Ella accompanying him. Often left alone, she becomes lonely and isolated, and when she decides it's time to have a baby, she begins dreaming of medieval scenes involving a blue dress. In alternating sections of the novel, these details are developed in a narrative about a 16th-century French farm girl and midwife, Isabelle du Moulin, and her eventual marriage to overbearing tyrant Etienne Tournier. Isabelle and Etienne belong to a vehemently anti-Catholic Calvinist sect that overthrows the village's cult of the Virgin, who is also known as La Rousse and depicted in paintings as red-haired and wearing a blue dress. Because of her own red hair and midwifery practice, Isabelle is suspected by her husband of witchcraft and punished accordingly. Ella, with the help of magnetic local librarian Jean-Paul, researches the lives of Isabelle and Etienne, trying to get to the bottom of her strange dreams. Chevalier tries hard to make Ella sympathetic, but her dissatisfaction with Rick is baffling, as is her attraction to the chauvinistic Jean-Paul. Equally difficult to swallow is the heavy-handed plot, which relies on jarring coincidences as it swerves unsteadily from past to present. (July) Forecast: Chevalier's name will guarantee her an audience, but the publication of this early work in an unassuming paperback edition is a wise choice. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Written well before her popular Girl with a Pearl Earring and previously published in England, this brilliant hybrid historical novel/contemporary romance/mystery has the signature Chevalier touches of fluid language, strong characters, and imaginative plotting. At loose ends after arriving in France with her architect husband, American midwife Ella Turner decides to research her elusive Huguenot ancestors, the Tourniers. Soon, however, her marriage founders (repeated encounters with an intriguing French librarian don't help), and Ella starts to have troubling dreams featuring the color blue. Flashbacks to the 16th century introduce Isabelle-also a midwife-who married into the Tournier family and is suspected by her rabidly anti-Catholic husband of continuing to worship the Virgin Mary. The punishment he finally exacts for her perceived crime is horrific. Fans of A.S. Byatt's Possession should enjoy this work, though it's Byatt with a soup on of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery"; the startling ending, when all the (blue) threads are tied together, is not for the squeamish. This marvelous piece of writing firmly establishes Chevalier as a talent who's been worth watching. Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries.-Jo Manning, Miami Beach, FL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A rich and quirky Chinese puzzle of sorts: a family saga turns into a mystery, then is finally revealed as a domestic drama about a young American living in France who finds her own life intersecting with the history of her ancestors in palpable and uncanny ways. Chevalier’s first novel (never before published here) is set in Lisle-sur-Tarn, a little French town that’s a long way from California, both geographically and culturally. But when Ella Turner’s husband Rick accepted a job in Toulouse, Ella chose picturesque and sleepy Lisle for their new home. It was an eerie choice, for it turns out that Ella’s ancestors—the Tourniers—had lived in Lisle until the 16th century. Ella tries to settle into her new surroundings with good grace—studying French, introducing herself to the locals, socializing with Rick’s colleagues—but she’s soon at loose ends. To begin with, she starts to have a recurring dream—a wordless image of vivid blue—that leaves her increasingly troubled. She also develops a persistent case of eczema, which her doctor suggests may be brought on by stress. What sort of stress? And she finds herself unable to make friends in Lisle. Her only real confidant is Jean-Paul, the town librarian who helps her to research her family history. With his guidance, Ella pieces together the saga of the Tourniers, Protestant Huguenots who had to flee France during the religious wars of the late 16th century. Their story takes on a personal significance for Ella, who discovers a picture by one of her ancestors in the local museum, painted in exactly the same shade of blue that she sees in her dream. Chevalier (Girl With a Pearl Earring , 2000, etc.) contrasts Ella’sinvestigations with chapters relating the adventures of ancestor Isabelle de Moulin Tournier, whose life parallels Ella’s in many ways. Soon Ella realizes she’s looking into her past out of something more than idle curiosity. A modest work of some skill, told with a minimum of melodrama and some good local color.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“A beautifully crafted story shot with vivid colors.” —The Times (London)

“Such an achievement for a serious writer that you feel it deserves an award.” —The Independent (London)

Meet the Author

"I was born and grew up in Washington, DC. After getting a BA in English from Oberlin College (Ohio), I moved to London, England in 1984. I intended to stay 6 months; I’m still here.

"As a kid I’d often said I wanted to be a writer because I loved books and wanted to be associated with them. I wrote the odd story in high school, but it was only in my twenties that I started writing ‘real’ stories, at night and on weekends. Sometimes I wrote a story in a couple evenings; other times it took me a whole year to complete one.

"Once I took a night class in creative writing, and a story I’d written for it was published in a London-based magazine called Fiction. I was thrilled, even though the magazine folded 4 months later.

I worked as a reference book editor for several years until 1993 when I left my job and did a year-long MA in creative writing at the University of East Anglia in Norwich (England). My tutors were the English novelists Malcolm Bradbury and Rose Tremain. For the first time in my life I was expected to write every day, and I found I liked it. I also finally had an idea I considered ‘big’ enough to fill a novel. I began The Virgin Blue during that year, and continued it once the course was over, juggling writing with freelance editing.

"An agent is essential to getting published. I found my agent Jonny Geller through dumb luck and good timing. A friend from the MA course had just signed on with him and I sent my manuscript of The Virgin Blue mentioning my friend’s name. Jonny was just starting as an agent and needed me as much as I needed him. Since then he’s become a highly respected agent in the UK and I’ve gone along for the ride."

Tracy Chevalier is the New York Times bestselling author of six previous novels, including Girl with a Pearl Earring, which has been translated into thirty-nine languages and made into an Oscar-nominated film. Her latest novel is The Last Runaway. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., she lives in London with her husband and son.

Brief Biography

London, England
Date of Birth:
October 19, 1962
Place of Birth:
Washington, D.C.
B.A. in English, Oberlin College, 1984; M.A. in creative writing, University of East Anglia, 1994

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Virgin Blue 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 86 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Chevalier evoked strong emotions from me, the reader. I was at the climax of the story when i just kept turning pages wanting to see what was going to happen, i found myself gasping in shock. As if i were in the story. The vivid way she depicts her words to tell what is happening is remarkable. She describes a scene with imprinting imaging. I have to say I am now a big fan and will await to see more from this great writer.
Scarlett_Grace More than 1 year ago
The first book of Chevalier`s that I read was Girl With A Pearl Earring, which was a fascinating lyrical story perfectly woven. And I was not disappointed in The Virgin Blue. It is just as interesting, and has the same lyrical writing style that is Tracy Chevalier. I loved how she wove two women from different centuries, yet from the same family, together. I also love how Chevalier uses color in her book, how detailed she is, but detailed in a way that makes you think of the vastness of life, of all the underlying decisions. Her way of using the color blue to blend together the fates between the two women is mesmerizing. This is a book you can not put down, a book that is both touching, shocking, and in a way heart-wrenching, and yet written in Chevalier`s way that at the end makes you want to sigh. Beautiful, interesting, and bold. A must read if you liked Girl WIth A Pearl Earring (which is personally my favorite.)
Guest More than 1 year ago
I usually do not judge a writer as being great because they have written one good title. I read Tracy Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring and really enjoyed it. I knew when I picked up Virgin Blue it would be a test to see if I really appreciated this writer and I have to say Ms.Chevalier has passed with flying colours. I really enjoyed this book! The characters were vivid,the story compelling,and the writing was wonderful. I love how the author makes you feel like you are back in time one minute and whips you into reality the next. Great read!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I couldn't stop reading this book! I love mysteries as well as the topic of midwifery, so was pleased with The Virgin Blue. I found the author's style a bit like Byatt's (Possession). Switching back and forth in time was not at all confusing or distracting, and the author did an excellent job of weaving past to present.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was captivating from front to back cover! It was nearly impossible to put down. Chevalier is a wonderful author that won me over with a Girl with a Pearl Earring. A must read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this novel! It isn't often that I find a book that makes me cry and smile at the same time! This is a story of love and betrayal, of women and their struggle to survive as their religion and life falls away from them. It is a beautiful duet between past and present, which comes to a gripping final creshendo. I highly recommend this book and all of Tracy Chevalier's novels.
Helloui More than 1 year ago
I cannot believe anyone who has read this book hasn't fallen love with it. It is one of the best put together books I have read. I have to wonder if some of the reviewers were reading the same book I read. Everyone has their own opinions. I read the "Girl with a Pearl" first and then this one. I believe I Liked "The Virgin Blue" better, not just for content but for the writing itself. It takes an extremely good author to be able to weave one century together and turn it around and have it all tie together. I couldn't put it down and in a couple of years down the road, I am going to read it again. If you haven't read it yet, make it your next book. I recommend any books by Nelson DeMille, Susan Monk, Joan Medlicott
Guest More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book. Anything historical or with a mystery or midwifery connections always captures my attention. This book has all three. A mixture of sadness, joy, and discovery blends nicely into the story. With her fine writing and beautiful imagery, the author drew me in and I was not disappointed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book I thought this was the type of book I never would like but i was very wrong.This book was fantastic I loved the simalarities in isabelle and ella turner i highly recomend this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the first book I read of Chevalier's. It is haunting me still, I cannot forget it. She has succeeded at what so many fail.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the wonderful things about novels is that they can evoke extremely different reactions from different readers. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Although 'The Girl With the Pearl Earring' was an entertaining story, 'Virgin Blue' was a far superior read. Chevalier does a brilliant job of transitioning between the two stories, and keeps the reader interested in both. Through each story, we are forced to realize that while roles and traditions may change, human nature and 'pack mentality' does not. It¿s a quick, entertaining read that introduces religious history and sprinkles in the French language with ease.
Guest More than 1 year ago
read this book if u love france. also if u just want a good read. i enjoyed this book very much
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book about six months ago and it still enchants me. The two stories are so life-like and real, you just imagine being there with the characters. This is one of the most well written books I have ever read. This is a definite read for any fans enchanted by Girl with a Pearl Earring.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. Couldn't put it down...didn't want it to end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the first book by T. Chevalier that I read and definitely will not be the last one. The title, the girl on the cover and Goethe's quote all come to life as your expectations are more than fullfilled. Chevalier spins a wonderful tapestry which grabs your attention, will not let go, and leaves you hungry for more. It is a mystery, a historical novel, a love poem, a feeling for tradition and rites that pulls you in until you feel you are experiencing this life yourself. TRIPLE EXCELLENT!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was well worth the read. A lot of books you see out nowadays aren't worth the paper. This one was worth every page. It is destined to be a classic for years to come. It's an adventure, an experience that you are not likely to foget anytime soon.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the first book I have read by Chevalier, and I am completely hooked. She drew two worlds together in a way that made the connection seem natural and effortless. Her characters are mesmerizing. Looking forward to reading many more of her books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have found myself revisiting this novel often throughout the days and even within my dreams. An unusual plot, taking place during a period in time, often untouched in novels. It really brought to light again, the risks of fanatacism. Filled with deep emotion--Isabelle with her children, and Ella with her inner turmoil... She brought her characters to life in a living landscape drawn within the leaves of the pages. Once I began this book I found it difficult to walk away from, and read it in less than 5 hours.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Liked the book but it seemed to be missing something at the end-it left to many questions
new-hampshire-reader More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. Maybe a bit predictable, but it was a nice break from other things I have been reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just couldn't put it down, in a maraton of two days i devoured this increible piece. Its fast reading, very well researched and fabulos. Simply a most read!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not worth reading boring did not make sense at times
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago